Busting Out girls pic 1.JPG

Thursday Theatre Review: The Groundswell Festival of New Works by Women

Trouble with boys, bullies, low self-esteem and eating disorders. From the shot-in-video glory of Degrassi Junior High to the after school special, this is well-traveled dramatic territory. So you'd think a play about these things would seem a little, well, stale.

You'd be wrong.

Turns out, when the person talking about this stuff is a twelve-year-old girl, on stage for the first time, the whole thing gets a lot more real. It's rough, it's raw, and oddly enough, totally and completely true.

So goes Busting Out, the kick-off show to Nightwood Theatre's Groundswell Festival of New Works by Women. Busting Out is a collective creation by 12 members of Nightwood's free summer program for teen girls. Under the direction of Anne Chatterton and several visiting female artists, it's an impressive offering by any standard.

I went into the performance expecting something pretty amateurish. I mean, they are teenagers after all, and young teenagers at that. But I was suitably impressed with the polish and passion behind the girls' delivery. But more than that, the show was so damn brave. The actors put a lot of their lives onstage, something that takes a lot of courage. They explore some pretty heavy material and ask some difficult questions of themselves and the audience. When I was 12, I couldn't talk about anything in public more sophisticated than Star Trek, so my hat is off to these young performers.

Nightwood Theatre has a long history of providing a space for women- of all ages- to tell their stories. Founded in 1979, the theatre is in its 28th year of producing new Canadian plays by female artists. The Groundswell Festival is a collection of works-in-progress, meaning that most of the shows are staged readings. If you're like me, and tend to be fairly tuned to the writing behind a play, staged readings are a great opportunity to really hear a script before it goes into full production. Who knows? Today's Groundswell scripts may be tomorrow's Dora winners.

The Groundswell Festival continues through this weekend. Tonight, you can catch Marjorie Chan's a nanking winter at 8PM. Friday brings Sonja Mills' Oil Man at 8PM and The Corpse Bride by Niki Landau at 9:30PM. Write From the Hip, a collection of short plays from Nightwood's youth playwriting program goes Saturday. All shows are pay-what-you-can, and the suggested donation is $10. For more information, visit Groundswell's website.

Photo: the Busting Out girls take the stage. Courtesy of Nightwood Theatre.

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